First Drive Review: 2011 Ford F-150 3.5 EcoBoost V-6 and 5.0 V-8, Part 2

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3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 ($1,750 more than 3.7-liter V-6)

The 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 F-150 was the only truck we drove both empty and pulling a trailer. Ford says it can tow up to 11,300 pounds, which is today’s maximum towing rating for the F-150. That’s amazing when you imagine its displacement is smaller than a pair of 2-liter bottles of Coke.

They hype around the 365 hp (@ 5,000 rpm), 420 pounds-feet (@ 2,500 rpm) twin turbo direct-injection six-cylinder has been building for years, when it was officially announced at the 2008 Detroit Auto Show. Since then, we’ve had the opportunity to test the turbocharged powertrain several times during its development. We were very interested to try out EcoBoost with close-to-final engine and transmission calibrations.

Ecoboost-burnout-1-560

In a wide-open-throttle drag, we measured a blistering fast zero to 60 mph time of just 6.82 seconds behind the wheel of a two-wheel-drive FX2 SuperCrew with a 3.73 rear axle. That was the fastest time of any of the 2011 F-150s we drove and faster than any of the 4WD trucks we measured during our 2008 Light-Duty Shootout. Unloaded, there was so much power that we experienced some rear axle hop and traction control intervention about 100 feet into the run.

Ford also provided 6,700-pound, 24-foot-long enclosed trailers to pull behind a 4WD Platinum SuperCrew and a 2WD XLT on a route that combined highway and stop-and-go driving. Both trucks had 3.73 rear axles.

The EcoBoost V-6 lived up to its expectations of V-8 like pulling performance towing trailers, but in our opinion it felt more like a small-displacement V-8 instead of large-displacement engine.

Fuel economy was also V-8-like. We observed a range of 8.9 mpg to 9.7 mpg, though it seemed like Ford is prioritizing fuel economy over stoplight sprint performance when the truck is pulling a trailer. It made us wonder how the truck would do with a full 11,300 pounds behind it.

Still, we’re firm believers in the engine’s broad, diesel-like torque curve, 90 percent of which is available from 1,700 rpm to 5,000 rpm. Deep accelerator requests while towing were consistently met with refined single-step transmission downshifts and smooth power, which never felt jumpy or spiky.

Ecoboost-towing-1-560
Photo by: Sam VarnHagen/Ford Motor Co.

At 65 mph on the highway, the EcoBoost powertrain preferred to hang in fifth gear (first overdrive) instead of sixth gear (second overdrive). It loped along at about 2,100 rpm over small, widely-spaced rolling hills. This was with the transmission in tow/haul mode, which holds gears longer and has higher rpm to keep the truck in the engine’s optimal powerband.

Using the 6R80 six-speed transmission’s new manual shift mode -- which makes the gearbox perform like a manual transmission as long as you don’t redline -- we could have forced a shift into sixth gear to lug the engine around 1,800 rpm, but we kept the transmission in full auto.

Of note, Ford has cleverly placed the manual shift mode button on the console shifter in F-150 models equipped with this option (its standard position is on the gear shift stalk), which helped reinforce its substitution as a virtual handshaker.

The 6R140 also features Progressive Range Select for every engine, which allows a driver to reduce the number of available gears so it’s easier to tow up a grade and hold a specific top gear, like fifth, without worrying about the truck upshifting and getting bogged down.

In addition, we drove about 60 miles in an unloaded EcoBoost F-150 with a 3.15 rear axle. A Ford-instigated fuel economy challenge between journalists yielded at least five trucks with fuel economy north of 30 mpg from the miserly hyper-milers behind their wheels. If that's any indication, most drivers are likely to hit about 21 mpg to 23 mpg on the highway. We hear that Ford officially hopes to score a 24 mpg rating from the EPA.

Ecoboost-tall-1-560

We didn’t participate in the mpg challenge. Instead, we chose to get a better feel for the 3.5-liter V-6 driving over longer distances. We’d swear the 3.15 rear axle was geared 25% shorter because when empty, it was just waiting to soak up the revs.

The 3.5 V-6 has a tougher exhaust note than the 3.7. It’s a unique sound that we’d consider a third type of powertrain signature to add to naturally aspirated gas V-8’s rumble or a diesel’s clatter.

The 3.5’s twin-turbo setup should also prove ideal for towing at altitude, where a naturally aspirated engine can have difficulty feeding air to its cylinders.

As hard as Ford is pushing EcoBoost, the only chance you'll have to drive an F-150 with the 3.5 TT GDI V-6 is at Ford's Built Ford Tough F-150 2.0 Round-Up until it hits dealers late in the first quarter of 2011.

Zero to 30 MPH (SuperCrew): 2.74 seconds
Zero to 60 MPH (SuperCrew): 6.82 seconds

What We Like

  • Every bit the power equal of a V-8
  • Virtually no turbo lag
  • Can’t tell it’s a V-6 when the truck is unloaded
  • Excellent highway fuel economy

What We Don’t

  • Needs a boost gauge, like the F-Series Super Duty offers for its 6.7-liter turbodiesel
  • V-8-like fuel economy when towing
  • Wouldn’t hold sixth gear when towing on gentle rolling hills

5.0-liter V-8 ($1,000 more than 3.7-liter V-6)

Xlt-50-560
Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

The 5.0-liter V-8 is rated at 360 hp (at 5,500 rpm) and 380 pounds-feet of torque (at 4,250 rpm). It’s positioned as the midrange engine choice for the F-150, below the 3.5-liter V-6 and conventional large-displacement 6.2-liter V-8 and above the 3.7-liter V-6.

Although the 5.0 produces more power than the outgoing 5.4-liter V-8, it won’t tow as much. Its maximum is 10,000 pounds trailering -- up 200 pounds from Ford's original 9,800 pounds rating in August -- instead of 11,300 pounds. Peak torque has also moved up the rpm band, from a low 3,500 rpm in the 5.4-liter V-8. Our experience driving the 5.0-liter V-8 was brief. The 4-valve 5.0-liter certainly feels more capable than the old 3-valve 5.4-liter V-8 it replaces. And like the screaming 3.7-liter V-6 we drove, the 5.0 will also rev as high as 7,000 rpm when pushed hard.

At highway speeds, with a stout 3.31 rear axle, the 5.0 powertrain effortlessly knocked out 6-4-6 downshifts and upshifts while passing slower traffic. Its unloaded zero to 60 mph time wasn’t far off from the significantly larger 6.2-liter V-8.

We didn’t get the opportunity to tow with the 5.0. We suspect the EcoBoost’s low-end torque will give the 3.5 a pronounced performance advantage over the 5.0 when both trucks run empty. We also wonder which gear the 5.0 will hold onto when towing moderate loads, since the EcoBoost towed in fifth gear. If the 5.0 holds one gear lower, we’d be concerned about gas mileage.

Still, we’re confident the 5.0 V-8 will meet the needs of most F-150 buyers.

Zero to 30 MPH (SuperCrew): 2.72 seconds
Zero to 60 MPH (SuperCrew): 7.38 seconds

What We Like

  • Refined yet powerful exhaust note
  • Excellent power feel
  • Great choice if you don’t quite trust or want to pay for an EcoBoost V-6
  • 375 hp and 390 pounds-feet of torque burning E85 flex-fuel

What We Don’t

  • Too soon to say. We like this engine but haven’t towed with it
  • Is Ford sandbagging the 5.0’s power figures?

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Comments

I like what I hear about this 3.5 twin turbo, but if you have a turbo fail out of warranty that is going to be big bucks. I've always been a fan of fewer parts. They need to work out the issues with running direct injection on naturally aspirated pick up trucks so they can keep V8's and meet carb requirements.

Dam that 5.0 sounds awesome cant wait to get one of those bad boys.
@Mike Levine
is there any word on the MPG on the 5.0 yet?

If you have any engine fail out of warranty it will be big bucks. I have been fan of more parts and new features.


5.0L FX4 Here I come!

I agree though. They do need to work on getting Direct Injection and other things into the 5.0L and 6.2L. Even though the Ecoboost is performing really well, I think there will always be people who perfer a naturally aspirated V8 with less moving parts...Myself included.

Those 0-60 times seem a bit slow for the horsepower ratings.

Good write up Mike. I don't know if you can fault the ecoboost for not staying in 6th while towing. I imagine that gear was made for obtaining great hwy mpg while empty.

From reading your review and from my experience in Dallas, the only thing that I don't like so far is the 8-9 mpg towing.

my 6.0 Powerstroke downshifts from ovedrive (4th) to third while towing around 5000 lbs while on small hills so it sounds like the ecoboost is doing ok

Mike, can you list the setup of the trucks used in the mileage challenge that came in at 30+mpg? 2wd, 4wd, 3.15, 3.73, supercab, crewcab? Thanks.

What speed was the towing MPG based on. Our GC towing a 5000lbs trailer will get 11mpg at 62mph, 10mpg and 65mph and around 9mpg at 70mph.

Great write-up Mike, this is a tremendous site for sure. This Eco-boost certainly has my attention. Not running in 6th while towing that 24' trailer seems reasonable, as thats a decent load and quite un-aerodynmaic.

Bummer about the no boost gauge, aftermarket will be all over that.

Can you elaborate more on how the center console shifter works with the range-select and "auto stick" mode? Is it like the Ram, with one drive position where you bump it side to side to select gears? Thanks again!

Very interesting, I wouldn't call 0-60 in 6.82 Blistering fast, its about equal to the competion's big V8's, but has better mileage to go along with it. I'm torn between the EB and the 5.0, I'll probably go with the 5.0 if the MPG are at least a bit better then the outgoing 5.4.

@Mark: We towed between 60 mph to 65 mph. There was a cop with a radar gun, so I was extra conscious about speed. However, that MPG included 2 to 3 full stops and starts at lights along the route. I reset the FE gauge at highway speeds after I started that part of the trip. The numbers I reported came straight from the DIC in the productivity screen.

@Mopar21277: Let me find a picture that I took of the shifter. It's not like the Ram where you push side to side. There's a +/- button that sits below where your thumb would rest. Will try to add the pic to the story later today.

@Big T: Most of the EcoBoost trucks in the mileage challenge had 3.15 rear axles and were SuperCrews. IIRC they were also two-wheel-drive but I can't recall for sure and forgot to write that down. :-( Still, 30 mpg is amazing and 22 mpg is very respectable.

The best 3.73 truck was right at 30 mpg. Two more at 28 mpg.

I only tow about 10% of the time and I commute empty about 60 miles per day so the EB 3.5 with that great milage unloaded sounds like the engine for my needs. Can't wait to read about the full comparison test.

Please note that Ford has raised the 5.0-L V-8's max towing rating from 9,800 lbs to 10,000 lbs, as of last week. It's updated in the story.

It seems to me that towing a trailer and the power required to pull it is often more related to the frontal surface area or drag resistance than total weight. I was looking at camper trailers the other day and you can get 26 ft. (29 ft. overall length) trailer that weights around 5,500 lb dry or 6,600 lb. loaded. That weight is well within the tow ratings of these trucks.
You'd have to get into 30 - 33 ft. long trailers to hit the 10 -12,000 lb mark. A 3/4 or 1 ton would be needed more to control the lenght and bulk.
I can't wait to see a full shootout involving these trucks.

@Lou: Well said. Too many folks forget that frontal area is just like adding weight.

Mike Levine

Did you see what the gas tank volume was for the ecoboost? Reading the order guide it appears to only be 26 gallons. If that is so, i think most would rather have slightly worse gas mileage, or almost equal when towing, and have the increase in range with the 36 gallons offered on the 5.0 or 6.2.

Also Mike, is there a boost gauge or anything with the ecoboost?

Lou,

Notice the "holes" missing from the fronts of the ecoboost. Just a license plate bracket, no air intake, still through the fender wall.

Go here http://www.fordvehicles.com/trucks/f150/2011/features/

and look at the bottom of the page, you will see a F150 towing a Fifth wheel and it looks like a fairly large one to me.

I said it before and I will say it again. I have nothing against Ford but if I was going to buy a F150 I would want a V8 in it like the 5.0 or 6.2. From experience I know V8s are nice powerhouses and true workhorses.

mike,in your opinion, do you think the aftermarket will offer plug and play for the ecoboost like they do for diesels and what kind of hp/tq numbers do you think it will add. I know in diesel engines one can see an additional 200 hp at the flip of a switch. You thoughts.

@tony: It's probably just a matter of time before the aftermarket jumps on EcoBoost but with the amount of time Ford has spent engineering it, an aftermarket co. would have to have rocket scientists to "improve" upon EcoBoost performance without blowing up the engine.

@Mike

Not really, simply tuning the engine for 93 octane would probably net 30hp over stock. A more efficient intake and exhaust will help too. People will be reliably getting 400+hp out of this engine in no time.

What We Don’t

•Needs a boost gauge, like the F-Series Super Duty offers for its 6.7-liter turbodiesel


Do you think it's possible they could add this feature to the 4.2" screen, That would be an easy fix.

What's the big deal about a boost guage? Unless you intend to mess w/ the wastegates, there's no reason for one. If it's that important, figure out how to add one yourself. Having a boost guage on a stock engine is like adding a huge rear spoiler to a daily driven fwd car, completely worthless.

As far as EB tuning goes, I know of at least one SHO that's been in the 12's already, and I know work is being done w/ the EB Flex. Being turbo, like any other Ford factory boosted engines (03-04 Cobra, GT500, GT, Lightning), this engine will be stout and more than willing to accept mods.

For any of you guys worried about 'reliability' or 'complexity' - all of these engines are complex, not just the EB. If you're not mechanically inclined, don't mess w/ it, and it won't (shouldn't) break. As far as turbo longevity, there are plenty of examples of turbo Subaru's lasting a LOOOOONG time w/ no replacement. Let the oil cool a bit before shutting down, don't beat on it all the time - the turbo longevity will be directly proportional to how well it's treated.

I've been trying to find info about pricing and details on engines vs. chassis...any info on this Mike? I'm particularly interested in a reg cab/short bed 2wd w/ the EB, as I'm sorely disappointed that Ford for so many years now has only had the 4.6 2V turd offered w/ this combination.

@Mopar21277: I just added a big photo on page 3 of the new console shifter with the +/- Range Select and Manual Mode buttons.

Once again we see... FORD is the undisputed KING of trucks.

government motors and dodge are left in the dust, literally.

How about some audio/video clips of that EcoBoost under full steam?

Wasn't Ford considering adding a "V8 sound" to the cab at one point? What was the final decision on that crazy idea?

420 pound-feet of torque is amazing when you think about it. The fuel-injected 454s of the 90's made 405 pound-feet, and the first generation of Dodge Cummins made 400 pound-feet. Time will tell if the ecoboost parts will last under all that pressure and heat. Meanwhile, we need to see towing report on the 5.0!

I drove the Ecoboost right after driving the big Hemi, and it wasn't pretty. The Hemi struggled with the 6700 lbs trailer, whereas the Ecoboost moved with great authority. Don't even talk about the Chevy's 5.3. That thing makes less torque than my ten year old 5.4. Pathetic and embarrasing at the same time.

I thought the EB was supposed to be around 400hp, WTF. and Im dissapointed to see the MPG tow numbers cause what else do you do with a truck? So either get the EB and cruz around town with good MPG, but blow your towing MPG all to hell or get the 6.2 and get better MPG towing but then blow your MPG around town? Ford is doing better being their power in the motors have been...well lets face it, sucked the big one. but I still think there is room for improvement.

@Joshua - I disagree.
Ford's mistake in the past was offering only 2 or 3 engines in the 1/2 tons. The 5.4 is a better workhorse than the 5.3.
The 5.4 was at a definite disadvantage against the 6.2(GM), 5.7(Dodge and Toyota), and even 5.6 (Nissan).
Was it underpowered?
For its displacement - NO.
Chev guys slag Fords for being underpowered but how many of them drive 6.2 L trucks?
Not many.
When I was looking at new trucks I could not find any 6.2 GM's to test drive.
The 5.3 is the most common GM engine out there. Ford's 5.4 compares favorably to that motor.
Ford's V10 should of been an option in 1/2 tons. That would of killed the whole HP argument right before it started.

@Kevin, Just what RAM model did they have? Configuration? The Ecoboost you drove, was it the 4x4 Crew Platnum? What size tires?

Cause I'm sure Ford wanted to make things look as good as they could, so, they probably had you in a 3.55 or even 3.21 geared (if 4x2) with the biggest 33" tires they could get off the Big Horn/Laramie /Sport. I'll admitt as most Ram owners will they need a 6 speed with gears allot closer together, for heavy haulers, better mileage, and better acceleration. But I only see myself hauling 6,100 max no major frontal area, and I got the 3.92s and 17" tires. Oh well, the Rams old 5 speed isn't perfect, but it doesn't slam into 1st when slowing either!

I like the direction of the new engines, but those turbos are going to be crazy to fix out of warranty, I have a turbo 4 cyc with direct injection now and blew the long block, it was $9400 to fix, it came with a new turbo and installation, but lucky me Mazda picked up about 75% of it. I am imagine that Ford will have some long extended warranties, I hope that anyone considering getting a turbo truck gets one...

@timxcd, was it a Mazda speed 3, right? what was the cause? That's just it, there is alot that can wrong, and it goes wrong in a big way.

Herr_Poopschitz

I hate to burst your bubble but the Ecoboost will not be offered in a (Regular Cab Shot Bed) configuration, From my understanding. If your looking to make a Hot Rod truck just invest in the 5.0L in a Reg Cab Short Bed. Hell the one tested here is a good and heavy crew cab. Shave all that weight off and put the 5.0L in a lighter Regular cab or even Extened cab, I see no reason why I shouldn't be running sub 7 second 0-60's.

hope you can get that ecoboost in the basic work truck configuration. too many of these trucks anymore you got to buy a bunch a crap to get the bigger motor, car floors and all that.

I just got back from Atlanta and participated in the Built Ford Tough Challenge. I am from South Dakota and laughed at the idea of a V-6 in a F-150. To say the least, I ate crow. The 3.5 out performed every truck in the segment. I checked the rear end ratios, triler equilzers, and everything else to make sure the test were not compromised. There was no lag on take offs, no high RPM wrap outs, nothing at all. The only problem I found is that it sounds like a V-6...I am disappointed that we are down playing the 5.0 because I think that is a heck of a motor, but Ford stepped up to the plate on the 3.5!

I should mention that the Toyota, Chevy and Dodge I drove were 2010 models. They did have the biggest rear ends available. So, if the other guys are making changes for 2011 as well, the tests may be a lot closer. If you want to go see for yourself, you can go to www.bftroundup.com and see if there is an event in your area. As for concerns about future turbo repairs, it appears the turbos are located in the right spot, they are water cooled and gravity fed so there shouldn't be an issue...but we will have to wait and see. Ford thought the same thing about the 6.0 too...but they didn't build that themselves.

I guess the Eco boost torture test will put to rest doubts about reliability. I can't wait till my fully loaded fx4 ecoboost gets here...Ford rules. It's not even close.

I like the sounds of the Ecoboost. I have a camper from bumber to tounge is 35' 5200 ibs empty & about 6100 full and it is 1/2 ton towable. I also do alot of traveling empty so gas millage is key for me. Currently I have a 04 Chevy Silverado 1500 4x4, which is not the best on gas millage especially towing. The EcoBoost F 150 Looks to be the truck for me. I wish the millage while towing is alot better. I am currious as to what cab configurations and bed length can pull the 11,300 ibs w/the EcoBoot?

If you go to the official ford website and watch what Ford put the ecoboost engine through you would not worry about "out of warranty" for a turbo. They basically ran the engine at max rpm for 150,000 miles also freezing it to -20c and then up to 200+ Fahrenheit. After that they hauled timber logs some of which weighed more then the truck, no problem. Then they hauled max towing capacity at a nascar track for 24 hours no problems. They continued to test it by comparing it to chevy and dodge counterparts on an uphill road as fast as they could go. This engine beat out Dodge and destroyed Chevy there as well. Lastly they ran it in the Baja and found that it used less fuel then the other trucks and doubled their mpg and they made it through just fine. Finally at an autoshow they tore it down in 35minutes to show minimal wear and they said it had another 150k miles it could go.

My point is that the Ecoboost is the future and an amazing engine. The massive low end torque is what blows Chevy and Dodge out of the water. All in all the Ecoboost engine is better then their V8 competition.

I bought a 2011 F-150 with the 5.0. I pulled four snowmobiles out west and it did amazing going up and down hills. My friend pulled two sleds with his gmc half ton and used 4 to 5 more gallons each time we filled up. I also love the eco boost wish i would have test drove it but already had my mind set on the 5.0.

My only concern with the Ecoboost would be the durability. I still remember 20 years ago when the turbos would cook themselves if you did not let them cool off. In my mind, a better test for the durability would have included getting the turbos hot and then shutting off the engine, letting it cool- then doing it again... 1000's of times.... I have a 2003 5.4 FX4 that has 130K miles on it.. And I feel it is just getting broken in. I cant afford to have an engine only last 100K miles. I need them to get close to 200K. I cant afford to spend 40K plus on a truck every 5 years.

Ford 5.4, Read this and educate yourself on modern engines. Turbos from 20 years ago were not cooled. Ecoboost's are water cooled. The 5.4 was a nice engine for 10 years ago, but is underpowered now and it is time to move on.

---

From Ford...

“During normal turbo operation, the turbo receives most of its bearing cooling through oil,” said Keith Plagens, turbo system engineer. “After shut down, the problems with turbos in the past were you would get coking in the center bearing. Oil would collect in the bearings, the heat soaks in and the oil would start to coke on the side and foul the bearing. Water cooling – used in the EcoBoost engine – eliminates that worry.”

The new EcoBoost V-6 uses two Honeywell GT15 water-cooled turbos.

“The EcoBoost engine uses passive thermal siphoning for water cooling,” Plagens explains. “During normal engine operation, the engine’s water pump cycles coolant through the center bearing. After engine shutdown renders the water pump inactive, the coolant flow reverses. Coolant heats up and flows away from the turbocharger water jacket, pulling fresh, cool coolant in behind. This highly effective coolant process is completely silent to the driver, continuing to protect the turbocharger.”

Going for a Spin - Flat Out
To validate their water-cooled turbo design choice, Ford engineers put EcoBoost through a special turbocharger test.

The test ran EcoBoost at maximum boost flat out for a 10-minute period. Then the engine and all cooling were abruptly shut down and the turbo was left to “bake” after this high-speed operation. If that sounds severe, imagine repeating this cycle 1,500 times without an oil change. That’s what EcoBoost’s turbos endured.

After 1,500 cycles, the turbos were cut open for detailed technical examination. The turbos passed the severe test with flying colors.

http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=29657

My H.D. f-150 ecoboost super cab 4x4 3.73 has 3,00 miles tows better than any 1/2 ton i know of and is avg. 18.5 mpg my avg speed to date is 35mph. my 6.0l 3500 van from chevy is getting 10mpg all the time and this v-6 putts that v-8 to shame.

Chris D.

That is awesome! Enjoy your Ford.

OPINIONS needed from F-150 ecoboost owners. Looking to buy an 2011 F-150 supercrew ecoboost and would like opinions as to what rear end to consider. I will pull a cargo trailer with a motorcycle a few times a year in the hill country of TX. Will this rear end be sufficient or should I consider the 3.55?



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